After a poor sponge diver (Sophia Loren, Two Women) discovers an ancient statue, “a boy on a dolphin,” a dedicated museum curator (Alan Ladd, Shane) and an unscrupulous art dealer (Clifton Webb, Laura) vie for the priceless artifact.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Picturesque and diverting adaptation by Ivan Moffat (Giant) and Dwight Taylor (I Wake Up Screaming) of David Divine’s 1955 novel of the same name. Directed by Jean Negulesco (The Best of Everything), Boy on a Dolphin is an unpretentious adventure tale noteworthy for its photogenic locations, Greece’s gorgeous Saronic Islands.
Where Boy on a Dolphin is most interesting is in its presentation of a moral dilemma: what would you do if you find a rare historical artifact, sell it or donate it to a museum? The film takes a serious look at the ethics and morality of the art market.
In addition, I thought Boy on a Dolphin had a few similarities with the Indian Jones franchise and Disney’s popular National Treasure movies. Unlike the aftermentioned films, however, this is a character-driven movie. Although originally designed to showcase Fox’s then-new CinemaScope process, character judgment and motivation are the primary focus of the film.
That said, the visuals are the film’s main selling point. The Greek Islands, the underwater photography and Italian diva Sophia Loren are eye-candies. Cameraman Milton Krasner (Three Coins in the Fountain) does seem a little too obsessed with Loren’s physical attributes, but who can blame him?
Speaking of Loren, Boy on a Dolphin marked her big Hollywood debut. It’s a little too obvious that she is in the movie because of her enormous beauty. Loren must have sensed the crude objectification — in one famous scene, she comes out of the water ala Ursula Andress (in Dr. No) — because she started accepting more challenging roles in the next few years, effectively proving that she was much more than a sex symbol.
As I suggested before, Alan Ladd’s character, Dr. Jones, could have been Indy’s granddad (they have the same last name!). There is even mention of Jones fighting the Nazis over historical artifacts! Anyhow, I really liked Ladd here — he plays Jones as a dedicated, almost obsessive archaeologist… hmm… another coincidence? Seriously, my only issue with Ladd is that he has no chemistry with Loren — he is aloof while she is spirited, a combination that simply doesn’t work.
Clifton Webb came close to stealing the show as an unscrupulous “raider” who buys/sells stolen artifacts on the black market. Webb’s Victor Parmalee is the kind of bad guy “you love to hate” — I was thinking, “Webb could have played a great James Bond villain!” The cast also includes Spanish heartthrob Jorge Mistral as Loren’s boyfriend and Laurence Naismith (Jason and the Argonauts) as a seedy physician.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Aside from the obvious lack of chemistry between its stars, Boy on a Dolphin is a fun movie with an engaging storyline and great color cinematography. Fans of films like King Solomon’s Mines (1950), The Deep (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Romancing the Stone (1984), etc., will want to check out this colorful and entertaining adventure movie. Color, 111 minutes, Not Rated.
P.S. This is my contribution to The Man Who Would Be Shane: The Alan Ladd Blogathon, hosted by Pale Writer.